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Editorial: Training for the worst of times

It is obscene that the term “active shooter” is so common in our speech. Many of us prefer to believe that the gun violence that has turned other communities upside down is an abstract, distant horror.

Our police officers cannot take that view — and we’re all better off when they prepare for the worst.

Last week, Easthampton police trained for three days in the city’s former high school on ways to protect the public from someone with a homicidal agenda. They invited members of the media, including Gazette reporter Rebecca Everett, to see what it’s like to don vests and masks, take up weapons and head into the unknown. Her report in the paper Wednesday revealed the risks all police officers assume as they rush to end a tragedy — because “active” means victims.

Members of the military train for months or years for combat against enemies with powerful automatic weapons. That’s what officers can also face — and it is why they take time from their normally peaceful beats to train.

What they are preparing to face can’t really be known. In Easthampton’s training, officers practiced clearing rooms in a home after devising a scenario that someone with a gun had taken refuge. They also drilled on rushing into a school to stop an intruder with a gun. Big cities have tactical teams that prepare all the time for such assignments.

But Easthampton’s police understand they cannot wait for more specialized units to arrive.

We can no longer believe the kind of violence visited upon students and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., would never happen here. People in Newtown used to think that. It is reassuring to know police departments in our area know they must be ready to do all they can to reduce the scope of a tragedy.

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